By John F. Di Leo -
For free entertainment in the Trump era, the meltdowns and hissy-fits of the MainStream Media are hard to beat.
In such a discussion, perhaps it’s important to define our terms, so here goes: The MainStream Media, or MSM, consists of the major TV networks with news divisions – NBC, ABC, and CBS… the major east coast newspapers – primarily the New York Times, the Washington Post, maybe the Chicago Tribune and USA Today… the straight news syndication agencies – primarily AP and Reuters… and cable news – primarily CNN and MSNBC.
These newsrooms, which have acted largely as a block of groupthink for generations, have been declared an enemy by our very untraditional president. When most people descend into madness, it is a private thing, in their apartments or jail cells. But since the MSM is on display every day, we get to watch.
A particularly interesting reaction along these lines, in this first month of the Trump administration, was ABC hack “reporter” Matthew Dowd, who declared this week that Donald Trump’s refusal to answer MSM reporters’ questions is tantamount to “Shutting down part of the First Amendment.”
Mr. Dowd thinks he’s a Constitutional scholar now?
It’s ludicrous on its face, of course, but worth thinking about, not for any legal reason, but because it is so revealing, as a manifestation of the elitism and addled worldview of the MSM.
Let’s begin with what the Constitution is, and what it is not. The Constitution is really two things, not one. The less important aspect is “an organizational plan for the federal government,” a blueprint for how federal power is split and shared between the three branches, who gets elected and who gets appointed, and so forth. But the more important aspect is “a wall around government power.”
The Constitution was designed to limit the size and strength of the national government… to ensure that it could not exceed its proper authority in the lives of the people and businesses of America. The first seven articles lay out exactly what the government can do, and no more… and the Bill of Rights goes further, in clarifying that, even in its lawful accomplishment of the powers listed in the first seven articles, it can’t traipse on these specific rights… such as the freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, religious freedom, etc.
Unfortunately, most denizens of the MSM never learned that. Their study of the Constitution begins and ends with the First Amendment, and even that, they get wrong. Consider the text:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Now, just consider how differently the denizens of the MSM view the wording in this one simple sentence.
The Constitution says that religious denominations and newspapermen are basically outside the authority of the government; the government’s not allowed to fund them, run them, or shut them down.
And yet, the MSM interprets that very amendment to mean that the government must treat the media with kid gloves, even do the media’s bidding, dance to the media’s tune… but the government can and must bind the hands of religious denominations, deny their membership’s constitutional rights, even bar them from speaking out or playing any role in policy formation.
How? How on earth can the same people pull such contorted views out of this document? Either the government must be “hands off” or it must be “hands on,” right? It’s the same amendment!
This outrageous misunderstanding is indeed the level of Constitutional comprehension shared by the majority serving the mass media today. It is so misguided, one wonders if their old schoolteachers and college professors should be prosecuted for malpractice.
The fact is, the Constitution grants the media nothing except the right to publish without government interference (with the usual extreme exceptions in place, of course, such as national security and criminal activity).
Under the Constitution, the government isn’t supposed to fund the media – but the MSM demands that they fund PBS and NPR. The government isn’t supposed to pay the media’s rent – but the MSM demands a nice big press room with wifi connections and power and heat and A/C for their comfort and convenience. The government isn’t supposed to fund their travel – but the MSM expects their top reporters to fly with the president on a press plane at reduced (taxpayer-subsidized) rates. When cost-cutting changes to such matters are even discussed – such as a move of the press room to a bigger space next door, which the administration thought the press wanted – the MSM screams bloody murder.
The Question of the Day
So we come to the question of the day: the pushback by the MSM, as represented by Matthew Dowd, against the administration’s decision to disregard questions from certain members of the MSM and instead take questions from others.
I would argue that this is one of those interesting questions that is best addressed by turning it around. So let’s look at it another way: Why should the government refuse to take questions from everybody else, and only take questions from the MSM?
Because that’s really what Mr. Dowd is saying!
There is only so much time in a press conference. We have half an hour or an hour, perhaps an hour and a half, if we’re really lucky. Since each question takes about a minute or so, and each response take three or four or five minutes, after the introductory remarks, that only leaves time for about four or five questions in a half hour presser… or about ten to fifteen in an hour long presser… maybe up to twenty in the rarer 90-minute program… if you want it done right (obviously there’s no such thing as an exact number here; some questions merit short answers, and some merit long ones).
If the MSM is made up of several free and cable TV networks, plus several major newspapers, plus the radio and print news syndicators… if you take just one question each from them, and allow just a couple of follow-ups, that will fill up the time on every single press conference forever.
That’s what the MSM expects.
Why on earth should they get all the questions?
There are approximately 1300 daily newspapers in the United States. And that’s just dailies… think of how many weeklies there are, and how many magazines… Plus about 14,000 radio stations… plus about 2000 television stations… and that’s not even counting all the new media, the blogs and other ezines whose reach dwarfs that of most traditional media.
…all of whom have been essentially excluded from White House coverage for generations because of the MSM’s grip on the White House press coverage format all that time.
Now, this isn’t quite as fatal to the country as one might assume. I have been writing a roughly-weekly column for Illinois Review for eight years now, and I’ve never attended a White House press conference; the lack of asking my own questions in the presence of greatness hasn’t kept me from having plenty of stuff to write about. There’s always a lot to write about in a nation of 330 million people and a world of 7 billion; you don’t need a press conference to get ideas.
But it certainly does make a difference to people in the profession. If you didn’t go to an ivy league college, your chances of breaking into the upper echelons of the news media are slim – but they’d be better if you got a couple of questions in at a WH presser, while representing the Rice Lake Chronotype or the Bloomington Pantagraph. But they don’t send their reporters to the White House; they know they wouldn’t get called on.
Perhaps if more people came from flyover country and got into those upper echelons, we might have better news coverage. We don’t know; we may never know, if nobody ever changes this status quo.
The Concrete Breaking Around Their Feet
Part of the MSM’s meltdown is – rightly – over President Trump’s continued reference to the “fake news” they perpetrate. It’s easy to make fun of such a generality, so they do… but there’s much more right than wrong about it.
The leftist bias of the MSM has been getting worse over the years, to the point that their 2016 coverage was laughably, almost treasonably, outrageous. Even when they covered breaking news about Hillary Clinton’s countless crimes – from the shakedowns and bribery of her time at State and the Clinton Foundation, to the campaign interference and outright vote fraud of the DNC-primary scandals and the ACORN/LaRaza cheating – they always managed to work in some slant that that made her crimes reflect badly on her opponents!
The public has seen through it. And this administration is siding with the public.
So let’s look at the MSM and their monopoly on direct news. If they can’t answer a question at the press conference, does that mean that questions won’t be asked, and the “press conference” will just be one long monologue?
Well… that HAS been the case in the past, occasionally… with other presidents. There have been times when the press was summoned to a press conference that consisted of a monologue that closed with the words “No Questions.” But that’s not the plan in this presidency.
What the Trump administration has declared is simply an introduction of fairness into the equation. We have all these thousands of other newspapers, radio and TV stations, and bloggers out there, who’ve always been excluded in the past.
The Trump administration has declared an end to the era of giving the MSM an absolute lock on WH coverage; they have announced that they’ll open it up – somehow – to other media. This could mean a lot of different things, and we don’t know yet exactly what, but almost every possibility is a good thing for this country. Imagine these possibilities:
- Committing to take two questions at every presser from internet sites, one national one like Breitbart, one regional one like Illinois Review?
- Committing to take two questions at every presser from small independent papers in the heartland, alternating tickets the way that senators dole out tickets to the Senate gallery, or perhaps with an organized lottery in advance so that reporters have time for travel?
- Committing to take two questions at every presser from local radio talk show hosts like Mark Belling and Joe Walsh?
The possibilities are endless, and they would still allow for MSM reporters to participate… but perhaps instead of running the whole show, they’d just be an equal part of the American media, not the vaunted rulers of the American media.
And that’s what terrifies them.
And that’s what makes this a revolution.
Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based Customs broker, international transportation trainer, actor and writer. His columns have been found in Illinois Review for eight years, and despite his never having had a moment in the sun during a White House press conference by getting his own question answered there, he’s never had trouble finding something to write about. Perhaps the MSM doth protest too much.
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